On an average day in Amery you will find many residents will say they come from Scandinavian descent. It is not uncommon to hear a Norwegian joke and you never have to look too far to find a decent Swedish meatball. Flagpole Park sports a variety of heritages claimed by residents, but March 17 is the one-day a year when suddenly everybody is Irish.
A new trend can actually determine how legitimate it is for those who are celebrating St. Patrick’s Day to be drinking green beer. Companies such as AncestryDNA, 23andMe and MyHeritage can shed some light on whether your ancestors were more likely to be seen at a Cinco de Mayo party or a Syttende Mai celebration, and you may be surprised by your results.
Although Northwest Wisconsin has a dense Scandinavian population, when it comes to the state’s population as a whole, residents with German heritage take the number one spot, followed by Polish, Irish and then Norwegian.
According to statistical data, Swedish sit at the top of Polk County’s heritage demographics. The greatest number of Swedes did not arrive until the 1870s to the 1890s. These Swedes settled on the newly opened lands in the northwest part of the state along the St. Croix River, particularly in Polk and Burnett Counties.
If only Irish were allowed to partake in St. Patty’s festivities last weekend, then approximately only 7 percent of Polk County’s population would have been allowed to chant, “Erin go Braugh.” There were two major streams of Irish immigration into Wisconsin through the southwest and through Milwaukee. The majority settled in rural areas in the south.
According to ZipAtlas, whose list divulged the top 700 communities with the highest Irish populations in the state of Wisconsin; Union Center, Wisconsin, has one of the highest Irish populations in the state and ranks #312 nationally for ZIP codes with the highest Irish population. New Richmond cracked the top 100 towns on the list, coming in at #88. Amery’s rank on the tabulation was #375. Of course through the years it has become quite common for someone to hail from heritage of many descents, which makes such data harder and harder to record.
Popular ancestry testing kits have enable consumers who send in saliva samples to use DNA to tell people what continents their ancestors are from and to locate family members, including distant cousins.
Last year the top selling of the handful offering the service was AncestryDNA. The company calls itself, “The leader in family history and consumer genomics, harnessing the information found in family trees, historical records, and DNA to help people gain a new level of understanding about their lives.” Ancestry has more than 3 million paying subscribers across its core Ancestry websites with an extensive collection of over 10 billion digitized historical records and has sold over 14 million AncestryDNA kits to date.
When it comes down to it, the celebrations, culture and folklore of any of our neighbor’s ancestry groups does not belong solely to the descendants of that group, but also to all people who can appreciate and learn from the interesting and diverse cultures of the area. So there is no need to feel guilty if you do not have Irish blood in your veins, yet last weekend splurged on corned beef and cabbage and wore a “Kiss Me I’m Irish” tee shirt.